The company’s debut product line of vegetable-based snack bars embodies the brand’s goal of “furthering a plant-based lifestyle through wholesome, organic and plant-based foods that are sustainably minded” by using “as much of the whole vegetable as possible, including the seeds, stems and skin, which give you more wholesome nutrition,” Christiane Paul, the chief marketing officer of ZENB, US, told FoodNavigator-USA.
This means including the cob with the corn in the corn flavored bar, the stems and seeds of red bell peppers for the bell pepper flavored bar, and the skins of the beets in the beet bar, she explained.
“What is really unique about the bars is that by using parts of the vegetables that are very often thrown away … there is actually more fiber in those parts so each of the bars is a good source of dietary fiber,” making them better for consumers, she said.
They also are better for the planet because they do not waste food, a problem around which there is growing consumer awareness and concern, Paul said.
“Food waste is such a huge issue. In this country, 40% of food is wasted and nearly a third of all produce is wasted and part of that comes from consumers not recognizing that there is a lot that you can do with things that you typically throw away,” Paul said. “So, we are using this an opportunity to raise awareness of the parts of the vegetables that often get thrown away that you can actually use and there is really good stuff in there.”
The ingredients also are non-GMO and sustainably sourced, she added.
The bars also tap into other emerging consumer trends, such as a desire to reduce sugar by offering a lower sugar option in a category set that is usually dominated by sweet flavors, such as chocolate, vanilla or fruit. Each bar contains only have 6 to 9 grams of sugar per serving, some of which comes from the vegetables which are naturally sweet.
And while not a replacement for fresh produce, the bars help address consumer desire to eat more vegetables, Paul said.
Leveraging DTC to create a community
The bars currently are sold only online at zenb.com as single purchases or as a subscription – a decision that Paul said “we did consciously so that we could have more direct conversations with our consumers.”
She explained that to become a lifestyle brand, the company wanted to build a community on its website of like-minded shoppers, and the DTC route “allows us to really craft a very unique dialogue with consumers, do things very quickly, introduce innovations into the market, get feedback and respond to those needs” in a way that the company didn’t think it could do in brick and mortar stores.
While DTC offers startups a lot of flexibility and a touch-point with consumers, one drawback is driving discovery. But Paul said the brand has a “robust support plan, which involves digital marketing, marketing across a variety of social media platforms, working with influencers and brand ambassadors who are excited about what we are doing and looking at a variety of other partnerships and events … that make sense.”
As the brand builds its community, Paul said it will introduce new products.
“We are just at the tip of the iceberg of what we are looking to do with this brand,” she said. “The launch of the ZENB Veggie Sticks is just a first step. We are working on a robust pipeline of innovation that is going to build out the number of additional eating occasions across the day and different target groups” to create an entire platform.